The continent of Africa is endowed with cultural wealth and artistic talent, be it fine art, fashion or handicraft; any Afro-art aficionado would vouch for this statement. They would also agree that finding African creations for one’s collection or inspiration without having to travel can be a difficult task due to the lack of efficient, organised and dedicated platforms for African arts. Artisans have traditionally depended on tourism to make a living off their creations, however, this has left them vulnerable to periods when tourism is low for whatever applicable reason. This is where Afrikrea comes into play.
The brainchild of Moulaye Taboure and Abdul Kadry Diallo, Afrikrea is a community e-commerce platform to discover, buy and sell African inspired items. Their stated goal is “to allow African creation lovers to live their passion while allowing the creators to live from theirs”.
Inspired by the success of models like Etsy and driven by the despair of Malian artisans affected by the lack of tourism, the founders initiated Afrikrea as a simple side project. Inadvertently they became more involved in the project, promoting ‘at least one piece from our designers each day’; this ultimately resulted in their total commitment to Afrikrea.
Although dedicated to all forms of art, the marketplace is dominated by fashion items with designers free to create their shops subject to a product conformity review. The platform encourages designers to interact with their customers, emphasising the importance of transparency to ensure greater satisfaction. Transparent and ethical sellers are rewarded with greater visibility and promotion on the site.
Afrikrea continues to grow in tandem with the global development of African inspired creations.
An impact startup allowing smallholders to finance themselves and whose ‘North Star’ is “to work with 1 million smallholder farmers (supporting 10 million family members) by 2025 to increase their income by $1.50 per farmer per day…”
In the simplest of terms, myAgro can be described as a bank-less savings scheme aiming to move smallholder farmers out of poverty. How is this being achieved you ask? Through the provision of myAgro’s mobile layaway system helping farmers save bit by bit to buy agricultural inputs and training using their mobile phones.
Dismissing the assumption that most microfinance institutions provide loans to rural farming communities that smallholder farmers are too poor to save; myAgro looks to remove the obstacles such as banks being located far from farmers, their transport costs and related bank fees which have dissuaded farmers from saving. The result is myAgro’s pioneering alternative money management system, CEO and Founder, Anushka Ratnayake explains, “We’re not asking farmers to change their behaviour to match an outdated financial system – we’re changing the system to match them.”
myAgro’s mobile layaway system uses a prepaid scratch card model which is already familiar with mobile phone users who use it to buy prepaid credit. Farmers can pay for agricultural inputs and training packages in advance by purchasing a myAgro card (from $0.50 to $50) at their local store then deposit into a layaway account by texting in the code. After having saved for a short while, myAgro delivers the inputs and training (paid for) in time for the planting phase.
myAgro envisions its model influencing how the agricultural sector is funded by demonstrating the sustainability and efficiency of their system in empowering smallholder farmers.
Africa is a huge growth market for social media companies with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Viber and Whatsapp which are largely text based becoming essential tools of communication. However, a large percentage of African communities are oral-based which makes some of these platforms effectively useless in these communities.
As a solution to not leave non-literate communities marginalised, Malian entrepreneur, Mamadou Gouro Sidibe same up with the idea of an audio based social network after an encounter with a stranger merchant who had asked him (because he couldn’t) to read a potentially sensitive message on Viber for him. This type of encounter is all too common in Africa and prompted the creation of Lenali, a fully vocal social network designed for local languages and dialects; a world first, according to Mamadou.
Lenali has been termed Mali’s Facebook or more appropriate to its functionality, Africa’s answer to Viber. Besides allowing users to communicate by audio, Lenali users also build a profile using audio and the app goes a step further, coming with a verbal installation guide. Currently, the app has four operating languages, French, Bambara, Soninke and Wolof, and there’s plans to add more African languages.
Since, its 2017 launch, the app has amassed a huge following with more than 40 000 downloads, mainly in Mali and the Malian diaspora, the appeal of interacting verbally in local languages has proven to be alluring. The issues with text based social media networks are not unique to Mali and subsequently, Lenali could expand across the continent as more languages are added.
Initially bootstrapped by Mamadou with the help of family, Lenali’s biggest limitation to growth has been funding.